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Nutrition, sleep and getting back to the gym  

Juan , one of our  Senior  CrossFit and nutrition(PN1) Coaches gives you some useful tips and hints

Nutrition Coach PN1

1: Sleep is the big mama when it comes to recovery, we all are very excited about getting our lives back and finally getting back to the gyms…but remember to try to not overdo it, give your body the time to recover, and adapt to training. Getting 7 to 9  hours a day of sleep is crucial for adaptation.

2 Responsible nutrition, after a year of lockdown and not being regular with our training you might have gained a few pounds…and that is ok. Just remember that our body needs nutrients to recover and adapt from training. Need help with that? Get in touch with Juan

3 Enjoy the process and listen to your body, at the beginning you probably don’t need more than 3 sessions a week remember that your body needs time to recover and adapt, respect any niggles that you might have. And remember we are here to help you with that process.

If you want to train with us at CrossFit London, get in contact

Red line your heart with a lockdown burpee challenge!

Some of the usual suspects have put together a fun burpee challenge to break up your lockdown day.

It’s simple. Do as many burpees as you can in 5 minutes, and watch your heart rate “red line”.

There are some cool benchmarks to shoot for

Greyskull trainer, Johnny Pain once said that “if you can do 100 burpees in 5 minutes or less you are probably happy with your body composition“. To join in the official challenge look up @mexi-joe or @bogdankpt or @gareth.me on Instagram, message them and they will add you.

If you are not on Instagram, shame on you, but drop me an email or a letter in the post,  or a pigeon and I’ll hook you up. Somehow!

It lasts till the end of February and sensibly, you get weekends off.

There are some fascinating experiments going on. Do you break it up?  If so, into 5’s, 10’s, or 15’s or do you just pile through?  I should say, it’s pretty disgusting whichever way you do it!

We are doing the “full” burpee version with the push-up, just to make it more fun

 

The muscle up: because its good to have a standard

Pretty well anyone, who isn’t quite ill, can jog a bit!

It’s actually, not that difficult with a bit of basic training to get almost anyone into a simplistic exercise class. I was forced to teach basic circuit classes in 1998 as part of my initial introduction into the world of fitness teaching, and its theory was to keep it really simple and really basic “as long as their heart is elevated it’s a great workout”.

It is quite correct that basic aerobic fitness is a useful thing and that it helps bring down some of the crippling costs of the NHS. However, to make fitness “walk off the street”accessible the powers that be decided to trash the moves. It didn’t matter if you couldn’t squat, or a push-up. If you could do a ‘half jack” and elevate your heart rate you were fit!

Trashing fitness standards leaves you weak and vulnerable in what is after all a very harsh world.

Jogging and spinning on a bike does not train you to pull your family from a burning house, or pick up your children and run with them to the hospital. An emphasis on specialism produces awesome endurance runners who cannot haul their luggage and superbly strong strongmen who would collapse after jogging a mile.  At Crossfit London we look for the middle road; unfortunately, it’s a hard road.

Many people embark on fitness regimes that consist of a muddled mix of sports-specific rehabilitation and bodybuilding drills. If you are injured – you need rehabilitation drills If you are developing your golf putt – you need sports-specific drills. If you like posing on a stage wearing fake tan and teeny weenie panties – body-building drills are for you.

Of course, all training should have an aesthetic output: your body should express what it can do. Is there any point in having a Cadillac chassis with a lawnmower engine? (Actually, some people think there is: and they are so very, very special)

We think it’s second-rate to embark on a core conditioning and training regime without a clear idea of what you are going to achieve. Immature goals such as ‘reducing my 10k time by four minutes’, or ‘upping my deadlift by 8%’, – while seemingly precise and accurate – are distractingly narrow for the fundamental ‘underpinning’ training that most people need (that said, we can easily get you those targets too).

We simply aim to generally prepare you for all types of challenges, by measuring and designing training against three standards.

Crossfit fitness standard 1

There are ten recognised general physical skills. They are:

■ Endurance (cardio/respiratory) ■ Stamina (the ability to effectively use energy) ■ Strength ■ Flexibility ■ Power ■ Speed ■ Coordination ■ Agility ■ Balance ■ Accuracy

You are as fit as you are competent in each of these ten skills. A regime only develops fitness if it improves each of these skills.

Improvements in endurance, stamina, strength, and flexibility come about through training. Training improves performance through physical changes.

Improvements in coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy come about through practice – which improves the nervous system.

Power and speed are adaptations of both training and practice.

Use this standard the next time you go for a spin class ( how strong, flexible, powerful and coordinated does sitting on your ass on a bike really make you?)

Crossfit fitness standard 2

We think your training should prepare you for real life. The implication here is that fitness requires an ability to perform well at all tasks (even unfamiliar ones) combined in infinitely varying combinations. In practice, this encourages you to put aside any prior notions of sets, rest periods, reps, exercises, order of exercises, routines, etc. Nature frequently provides largely unforeseeable challenges; train for that by striving to ‘mix stuff up’.

In practice you turn up to training a bit nervous, not knowing what to expect.

It helps build will and bravery.

Crossfit fitness standard 3

Whoever invented the human body was a bit of a ‘worry puss’– they felt that one energy system just wasn’t safe enough. Rather like the householder who has a real fireplace, electric storage heaters, and gas central heating. Some would call that greedy, but a cautious person would call it prudent.

The human body has three energy systems. One for fast reactive movement (diving under a car to save your three-year-old toddler), a slower, more extended, but still, a pretty snappy system (for running 350 metres, then diving under a car to save your three-year-old toddler). Finally, there is the long term ‘trickle’ energy system (the one you use while shoe shopping, running 5k, miles away from any toddlers).

For people who have little experience of toddlers, these ‘metabolic engines’ are known

as: the phosphagen pathway, the glycolytic pathway, and the oxidative pathway.

■ The first, the phosphagen, dominates the highest-powered activities (100 metre sprint), those that last less than about ten seconds.

■ The second pathway, the glycolytic, dominates moderate-powered activities, those that last up to several minutes (400-800 metre run).

■ The third pathway, the oxidative, dominates low-powered activities, those that last in excess of several minutes (5k run, walking, shopping).

Total fitness – the fitness that Crossfit promotes and develops – requires competency and training in each of these three pathways or engines. Balancing the effects of these three pathways largely determines the how and why of the metabolic conditioning (or ‘cardio’) that we do at Crossfit. Favoring one or two to the exclusion of the others, and not recognising the impact of excessive training in the oxidative pathway, are arguably the two most common faults in fitness training.

As an overriding principle, Crossfit views the needs of an Olympic athlete and that of our grandparents as differing by degree not kind. One is looking for functional dominance the other for functional competence. Competence and dominance manifest through identical physiological mechanisms.

At CrossFit London we scale load and intensity; we don’t change programs.

In objective terms, this could mean trying and failing to master  skills like the muscle up

The muscle-up is simply a visible test. Do you really have strong arms and a  tight core? Do you have the will power to train for a move that’s genuinely hard? The advantage of a bicep curl* is that on day 1 you can do it, albeit empty-handed. All you have to do is add weight. Day 1 there’s no chance that most people can muscle up. But here is the thing. We are basically a school for adults. We teach you the functional physical literacy that you were deprived of. We have drills galore to help you learn, like this one, and expert trainers to support you.(* BTW, it’s ok, you get to do some bicep curls too!!)

We have some training drills on our facebook group if you fancy checking it out. If you want to come and train, drop us a line

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How often should you train to get the best results?

The amount of Crossfit training to produce fantastic results was recently studied by Cavedon et al., in the  recent report:

“Different amount of training affects body composition and performance in High-Intensity Functional Training participants”. Click here for the full report

 It concluded ” that, in CF participants, a higher amount of weekly training improves most notably lean body mass and increases performance in association with increased skeletal muscle mass. CF participation is especially effective in reducing fat mass vs. age- and BMI-matched physically active controls”

The real thought provoker was the amount of time you probably need to invest in becoming super Crossfit  gorgeous. Our coaches will tell you that people who come 2-3 times a week, do really well.  Crossfit, at Crossfit London tramples over anything you can do in a park pretending to be a soldier, and certainly puts jogging to shame.  To get fit, you need a skill set, you need to use weights, you need disgusting cardiovascular stimulus and you need our insane programming.

This report looked at less than 10 hours a week as “low training”and more than 10 “High training”. In other words if you want to be a GREAT Crossfitter, you need to spend about 18 hours a week:

EIGHTEEN HOURS A WEEK.

The participants were chosen from people doing 6-18 hours a week. The maths works like this.  If you followed the Crossfit pattern of 3 on 1 off ,  that means 5-6 wod classes a week PLUS supporting classes, such as olympic weightlifting, gymnastics, powerlifting and mobility.

Probably 3 hours a day!

I hate to break it to you, but the super performers are above you because they put the work in. The good thing is, if you come just once or twice a week, the results can be magical. It’s just that at 18 hours a week, it’s more magical.

Make sure you talk to the training team about building in those extra classes if you want more magic, but be delighted with your skill set and fitness if you only come once or twice a week.

Never before has the need to be fit been more obvious! Get fit, get healthy.

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Should you tape up your mouth?

Getting super fit requires lots of mini changes, nudges and tweaks. One of the do anywhere changes you can make  is  playing with your breathing. Y0u cannot always do 10 burpees in a tube train, but you can certainly review and train your breathing pattern from behind your mask.

I’ve written a lot about breathing here and I’d suggest everyone learns a few of the basic breathing techniques Ive detailed. Most of them have been around for years. For those of you too lazy to follow links, a classic breath technique is “the square”.  Breath in for a count of 5, hold for 5, out for 5, hold for 5, repeat. well done, you are now a breathing expert.

One of the interesting things about breathing is the use of your nose, rather than your mouth. Many breath commentators would prefer it that you breath through your nose at it cleans the air, and injects Nitric oxide into the breath taken in, (and this enlarges the “air tube”). Breathing through your nose drives air into your lungs  and maintains pressure in your lungs too. Your nose acts also warms and humidifies the air you are breathing in as well as trapping airborne particles and bacteria!

But I know the question you all want to ask.

Can you do a Crossfit wod with your mouth closed. Actually, let’s make it more  fun and aggressive. Can you do a Crossfit wod with your gob taped shut.

This was the challenge given to 10 Crossfitters back in 2015. They were given some tasks including the wod  “Helen” which is run 400m 21 kettlebell swings, 12 pull ups x 3.  Anyone who knows anything about workouts knows, FOR CERTAIN, that you need at some stage to pant and most of the time breath through your mouth! If you keep your mouth closed and breathed through your nose,  you’d probably die.

The results, almost no difference ( and bear in mind these were people who just had tape whacked over their mouths, many for the first time).  So it’s a bit of a disappointment, no one died, no one had to walk slowly.

The take home proposition is, if breathing through your nose doesn’t reduce performance (that much),  but has a health advantage, maybe you should play with it.

Activity Normal breathing Taped mouth Difference
Push-ups 35,3 38,3 +8%
Box jump 23,7 22,8 -4%
The Plank 2 min 50 sec 2 min 50 sec +-0
Dips 28,5 32,4 +12%
Skipping Rope 140,1 132,5 -6%
“Helen” 11,27 11,40 -13 sec (-2%)

I should say, its probably a better idea to practice the breathing drills that are linked above, first, and I’d play with breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth,  especially if you go for a run outside, otherwise people will think you are really weird!

If you want to chat about breathing,  most of the coaches have an insight!

The L-sit will calm you down!

Whilst everyone likes a rippling physique, there  are exercises that are simply good for you, sometimes, for reasons that are not immediately obvious.

The L sit can have an impact on your stress levels. It was recently established that there is a connection between your core, your brain, your adrenal glands and thus the release of the stress hormone cortisol. It’s only been tested on Monkeys, but it’s very interesting.

Classically it was thought that most of the body systems worked top down. You think it, and the brain sends out the memo.

Basically, the primary cortex portion of your brain (or M1 for short) contains a map of your entire body including regions like your legs, arms, face, and your core. 

To everybody’s surprise, boffins have discovered a large number of neurons in the M1 that controlled the adrenal medulla. Plus, most of these neurons were located in the axial muscle region of the M1. Stated plainly: “Well, lo and behold, core muscles have an impact on stress,” says Peter Strick, PhD, a professor and chair of the department of neurobiology at the University of Pittsburgh Brain Institute. 

“One clear implication of this organization is that the sympathetic responses which occur during activities such as exercise, the performance of demanding cognitive tasks, and the experience of emotions are generated by neural activity from the same cortical areas that are responsible for these behaviors.” (The mind–body problem: Circuits that link the cerebral cortex to the adrenal medulla)

This isn’t that much of a surprise although as the mind body connection has been fairly known, or boringly worked to death, depending on your perspective. What we are beginning to see is the pathways for a body mind connection.

How you treat  your body has a direct impact on your emotions .

The psychologists, hippies and new age weirdos had always talked about this connection. I went to a charity fire walk in Liverpool Street, London several years ago, and we were made to power pose (stand there, legs astride, “being powerful”) to prepare us for the  rigours of the fire walk to come. Without such preparations, we would clearly have died.

Whilst power posing per se isn’t at all guaranteed (other studies found it to be utter tosh), its enough to understand  that:

  “specific multisynaptic circuits exist to link movement, cognition, and affect to the function of the adrenal medulla. This circuitry may mediate the effects of internal states like chronic stress and depression on organ function and, thus, provide a concrete neural substrate for some psychosomatic illness”.

All of which is a long winded rambling way of saying, do the L sit! ‘Cause your core sort of chats to your stress bits. Like”.

It’s OK.  I hang around with some really trashy people and have picked up some filthy phrasing habits.

To own the L sit, here are the stages! It’s vaguely abusive in places 

Stage 1. Notice the burger you are scoffing

Stage 2 put the burger down

The abusive thought behind stage 1 & 2 really is unnecessary. You can get good strong abs and still eat crap, you probably won’t be able to see them though. Although eating crap per se is bad for you.

Stage 3 grab the edge of the health and safety checked chair and push your ass off the seat, Notice how your bum is behind your hands. Find a balance. Practice for a few weeks (less if its easy)

Stage 4  Build on stage 3 , then stick one of your legs in front of you.Yikes. It’s hard for some, not so for others. You are lucky or you are not. Practice this and stage 5 together. One leg, then the other. Feel free to cry. Everyone likes people who can express emotional  weakness

Stage 5, is the other leg!

Stage 6. Hurrah, both legs out “purleez”

Stage 1-6  can be almost instant or its 6 weeks worth of work.

Then you can do it on the floor with paralletts

Then you start your disgusting journey to 2 minutes!

You’ll love the abs you get, the core control, and of course you’ll be calm and stress free!

Bug your Crossfit london  trainer and they will get you L sitting, like you were born to it. It will soon become easy ( this is a lie: it will always suck. If you have Abs of steel, we will  just put weight on your feet to me it awful again)

Thanks to  the PDF  The L Sit on Andrewstemler.com

The sketches are from is.tatsuo@gmail.com

Muted Hip Function

Effective exercise can generate powerful  huge forces  if they are initiated controlled and dominated by the hip. Many untrained athletes  have a muted hip which  creates postures and mechanics that reduce power output, promotes postures and mechanics that are considered by  many  to be unsound. In simple terms the Muted Hip Function (MHF) results from the legs  compensating for the failed of the hip, in effect using leg extension  to compensate for non existent hip extension. According to the Crossfit Journal the causes and consequences of MHF include but are not limited to: • structurally disadvantaged spinal posture • low glute recruitment • low hamstring recruitment • pelvis abandoning the spine and chasing the legs • centre of gravity shifting dramatically backward • centre of balance shifting toward toes • knee experiencing unsound shear force • leg extension being the only productive effort • hip extension not being possible with low hip angle • pelvis rotating the wrong way The cure is deliberate and focused training.  Thats what Crossfit London is for!

Add 10,000 steps a day

“10000 steps a day. Yep, that’s 10 thousand steps every day . Go and buy a cheap pedometer or look up if its already on your phone, and record how many steps you take each day, outside of your training.  This is your baseline of daily activity. Any gym work or running  is training and is extra . This is the minimum amount of movement you do to keep ticking over.

Frequently I see people work quite hard in the gym for an hour, but are totally sedentary for the rest of the time. The gym session barely compensates for their lack of day today movement.

I also see many sports people, who apart from the weekly football match, are to all intents and purposes, sedentary.  So,  put that pedometer on, check your phone and review your daily count.

Lifestyle Index Sedentary Low Active Somewhat Active Highly Active
Steps/day* <5000 5000 – 7500 7500 – 10,000 >10,000

But don’t worry! slowly build up your activity level if you find yourself in the sedentary box! Get active at work

for some science, look at

Effects of a 10,000 steps per day goal in overweight adults” by Schneider et al (Am J Health Promot. 2006 Nov-Dec;21(2):85-9.)

Some points need to be made

1) the 10,000 steps is a fantastic way to assess basic activity. Ive helped people who could  only manage 3000 steps in a day and the effect was remarkable.

2) 10,000 steps a day is the very least you should be doing.

However,  if you present 10,000 step Versus almost anything else, anything else is probably better: Brisk walking is better, a  fast 400m  run or a Crossfit Workout is better, indeed a  life and death brawl at your local pub really gets the blood pumping. The issue is this: you have to really be sedentary to do less than 10,000 steps a day, so its  a great baseline and target and you should always do more.

3) the message is “do both”.

So, its 10,000 steps each day, plus a workout at Crossfit london

Thanks to an original article on Andrewstemler.com

Stress your Oxygen system!

Lon Kilgore wrote in ‘The Paradox of the Aerobic Fitness Prescription” (Crossfit journal) that improvements in oxygen management could be driven by dropping Oxygen saturation during/after exercise. The logic of the General Adaption Syndrome (Seyle) requires an alarm phase to provoke adaptations.

“In the intermediate trainee and beyond, it is the depression of oxygen saturation as a result of interval training that forces the muscle to adapt to improve its ability to extract and consume oxygen to power exercise. Oxygen saturation is a marker of the specific driving force of VO2max gain*. If a beginner does long-slow-distance work and blood oxygen saturations drop 1% or less to 97%, this is enough to drive adaptation. But intermediate, advanced, and elite trainees need more. They need a drop in oxygen saturation to as low as 91%, maybe even lower for an elite athlete”

This observation was supported by David Lin et al who wrote “Oxygen saturations and heart rate during exercise performance” There is a fascinating write up here This basically showed that at a certain level of work, you can see a  drop in O2 saturations

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“SpO2% desaturations during maximal performance levels with power bursts into the clusters as revealed in this test could lead to measures of intense interval training providing an important augmentation to sports conditioning. “

This mornings workout was a 15 minute AMRAP of 20 kettlebell swings, 15 double unders,  150m sprint . I decided today, I’d take my pulse oximeter down. About half way through, straight after my double unders and during the run I managed to get my pulse ox on and this reading came up.

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After a quick  recovery our workouts always end with a disgusting stair climb to our flat ( to get home and haul the kettlebells back up) At the top it always feels as if you are going to die. As I reached the top I managed to get my pulse ox back on and whilst my heart rate was 160, my O2 saturations were 97. It took me a while to get my phone out so I only got a photo after my heart rate had dropped to 152

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My take home conclusion  is that the variation in a Crossfit workout combined with power (in his case jumping in the double unders) really stresses the oxygen system. The requirement to rapidly change from one exercise to another takes the body by surprise and has it scrabbling around for oxygen like a pandemic government trying to buy PPE. BY comparison the rhythmic stair climb, which felt disgusting, and produced a high heart rate, didn’t disturb my normal reading of 97%.

So that combo of intensity and variation does have a certain magic

Obviously this is an old Pulse oxmimeter, this wasn’t a clinical environment ( no lab rats, no one had a clip board), but it was an in treating bit of citizen science!)

*If you have never heard of it according to wikipedia “Oxygen saturation is the fraction of oxygen-saturated hemoglobin relative to total hemoglobin (unsaturated + saturated) in the blood. The human body requires and regulates a very precise and specific balance of oxygen in the blood. Normal arterial blood oxygen saturation levels in humans are 95–100 percent”

Thanks to Andrewstemler.com for this article

Can you be fit and fat?

The  answer to this  seemingly obvious question is  often confused by trying to define what  fat and fit means. Over the years the measurement of fat and indeed its distribution has raised some interesting  questions. I’m very aware of the muscular athletic awesome looking Crossfit athlete who comes back from their annual medical having been told they are obese according to their BMI. These are people, who when their body fat is checked(using callipers or some sort of science fiction machine) are down into the enviable category!. The next interesting “quickie” fat measure came when the discussion of abdominal obesity became fashionable The waist to hip ratio measurement was quick and easy and it certainly measured the tummy fat that showed. Today, we should all be about visceral fat. But, It’s a hard thing to measure without a CT scan . The problem with visceral fat (the fat inside your visceral cavity, or around your organs) , is that skinny people can have visceral fat and that people with a big tummy don’t necessarily have visceral fat. It can sometimes be all subcutaneous! Basically we can  have obvious fat and/or visceral fat. Now we need to ask what is healthy or what is metabolically unhealthy. According to Ortega (2012) .  If you crave the “metabolically unhealthy” crown, you must have one or more of these readings
  • high blood pressure (≥130/85 mmHg)
  • high blood triglycerides (≥150 mg/dL)
  • low HDL “good” cholesterol (<40 and 50 mg/dL in men and women, respectively)
  • high fasting blood sugar level (≥100 mg/dL)
Since the NHS actually started recording  the prevalence of obesity it was correlated with high blood pressure, high triglycerides, low good cholesterol and poor blood sugar. So it was quickly assumed that any overweight person would have these metabolically unhealthy markers. It wasn’t difficult to imagine the step to saying obesity causes them. However, this is a great example that causation doesn’t necessarily mean causation.  Is it possible to be visibly overweight ( I know that’s terribly subjective, but work with me) but still have metabolically healthy readings ( good blood pressure, good  blood sugar). Ortega et al wrote ”The intriguing metabolically healthy but obese phenotype: cardiovascular prognosis and role of fitness ”  They ran some tests using BMI and the 4 health markers and noted (i) metabolically healthy but obese individuals have a higher fitness level than their metabolically abnormal and obese peers; (ii) after accounting for fitness, metabolically healthy but obese phenotype is a benign condition, in terms of cardiovascular disease and mortality. this led to these conclusions (i) Higher fitness should be considered a characteristic of metabolically healthy but obese phenotype. (ii) Once fitness is accounted for, the metabolically healthy but obese phenotype is a benign condition, with a better prognosis for mortality and morbidity than metabolically abnormal obese individuals.
  • “Metabolically healthy” obese participants had a better baseline fitness level on the treadmill test compared with “metabolically abnormal” obese participants (adjusting for age, sex, examination year, smoking and alcohol consumption, and when using either BMI or body fat percentage to define obesity). The difference was the same for men and women.
  • “Metabolically abnormal” obese participants had significantly increased risk of dying from any cause during follow-up compared with “metabolically healthy” obese participants (adjusting for confounders and using either BMI or body fat percentage to define obesity).
  • When looking at cardiovascular disease outcomes, “metabolically abnormal” obese participants only had increased risk of a fatal or non-fatal cardiovascular disease event compared with “metabolically healthy” obese participants when using body fat percentage to define obesity. There was no difference in risk when using standard BMI definitions.
  • “Metabolically healthy” obese participants had no difference in risk of dying from any cause, or of fatal or non-fatal cardiovascular disease events compared with “metabolically healthy” normal-weight or fat participants.
On a narrow set of  health criteria and dubious “obesity’ assessments it’s quite possible to argue that you can be fat and fit!  However, over the years more concern has been raised about where your fat is . Research has indicated,visceral fat may be doing something  far more nasty. “Visceral Fat Adipokine Secretion Is Associated With Systemic Inflammation in Obese Humans” 2007 concluded “that visceral fat is an important site for IL-6 secretion ( an inflammation causing thing) and provide a potential mechanistic link between visceral fat and systemic inflammation in people with abdominal obesity”. So there is an interesting line of experiments that indicate that visceral fat could be there, releasing nasty stuff. The interesting thing is that you can be quite skinny and still have visceral fat and you can be obese and have no visceral fat. So based on current evidence and where you fat is  you can be both  visibly fat and fit and skinny and ill! Thanks to Andrewstemler.com for this article